Many entrepreneurs have strong feelings about blogging. Some look forward to it and eagerly map out a year’s worth of entries, while others dread the trip to the computer and lose sleep over what they will write about next.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, I’m sure you will agree that blogging is necessary for most businesses. A well maintained blog can increase consumer goodwill, facilitate two-way communication with your customers, and raise your search engine rankings.
But what are the rules for business blogging?
To find out, I enlisted the advice of three experts: Kent Lewis, founder and president of Anvil Media, a social media marketing company in Portland, Oregon; Mark McLaren, owner of McBuzz Communications, an online marketing consultancy in Seattle that helps business clients build blogs; and Laura Zander, founder of Jimmy Beans Wool, a wool company in Reno, Nevada.
Here are actions to avoid when operating a business blog:
1. Talking at your readers
The purpose of a blog is to initiate two-way communication with your readers, not to lecture.
“The most desirable action is to comment, so before writing, look at competitor’s blogs and understand the language they use to engage their readership,” suggests McLaren.
He recommends adding a human element to each entry; asking questions can help prompt comments.
2. Delegating writing responsibilities to the wrong person
Maintaining a blog can be just another thing on your to-do list, so it may be tempting to hand off the responsibility to a junior member of your team (read: summer intern). Lewis warns against such a move.
“Giving it to the intern is a tremendous mistake—they may lack mastery of the proper language for your company and knowledge of your product,” he says.
Instead, create an editorial calendar and give a senior team member the title of editor-in-chief. Divide up employees by mastery of subject areas and assign posts, he offers.
3. Trying to make money on your blog
Nothing is more annoying than pop-up ads and obnoxious banners that distract from interesting copy. While monetizing your blog can be tempting, it can also cheapen your brand.
“Clients may think you are trying to nickel and dime them if they see tons of ads on your blog,” Lewis says.
4. Trash talking competitors
No one wants to read Debbie-downer stories, so stay away from speaking negatively about companies and people in your industry.
“Keep a positive focus; it builds goodwill,” says Zander.
5. Assuming people will find your blog
While your content may be Pulitzer Prize-worthy, few people will find you unless you promote your blog.
McLaren recommends signing up for Google Analytics. The service will tell you what sites led readers to your blog and what keywords they searched to get there. That information can help you decide what words to include in future posts and where to focus SEO (search engine optimization) efforts.
6. Not establishing a solid plan
All business actions take planning and that includes blogging. Before diving in, create a content strategy. How often will you post? What format will you use…a casual tone? A more serious tone?
“Create a plan for what you will write—will it be tips and tricks? News? How-tos? Interviews? Look at the top 10 competitive blogs in your space and analyze what works and doesn’t, then develop an editorial calendar for posts,” Lewis suggests.